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Smart flying: How to Beat the Jet Lag Blues

Do you remember the last time you flew across time zones? The fatigue, insomnia, headache, grogginess, dehydration and the daytime sleepiness that you felt… And do you remember showing up to work and realising that your mind was not as sharp, your memory was failing, you had trouble concentrating and keeping focused, decisions took longer to make, the irritability and uneasiness….sounds familiar?

It doesn’t have to be that way.

I have flown across time zones for as long as I can remember, and in the early days, the opening paragraph of this post accurately describes how I felt physically, mentally and emotionally. I thought jet lag was just an occupational hazard and that I simply had to suck it up.

How wrong was I.

This desynchronosis or flight fatigue as it is known in science, is a fairly new condition for our mind-body system to deal with. As homo sapiens, we have been walking the face of this earth for around for 200,000 years and for 99.9995 % of that time we have never put our body-mind system through this experience known as jet lag.

It wasn’t until on August 11, 1939, that the first non-stop trans-Antlantic commercial flight, a four-engine plane operated by German carrier Lufthansa, took off from Berlin and flew 25 hours across Europe and the Atlantic carrying 26 passengers on a 3,728-mile journey to Brooklyn, New York (a flight that nowadays takes a tad less than 9 hours). I can’t even begin to imagine what the passenger’s body-minds must have felt “what the heck is this!?!?”

It has been almost 80 years since that flight and science has caught up with what happens to our body-mind system when we expose it to rapid, long-distance, trans meridian travel (east to west / west to east). Science has also been able to determine how to minimise the impact of jet lag.

In order to reduce the impact of jet lag, there are a number of proven things that you can do to lessen the impact of this psycophisiological condition. I still travel across time zones quite regularly and I am ruthless in enforcing my anti-jetlag rules, which I know share with you.

Before the flight

Avoid red-eye flights all together. Fly in the afternoon if you’re headed west and in the morning if you’re travelling east.

Change your sleep routine a few days before your departure. If you’re travelling east, try going to bed an hour earlier than your usual time, and if you’re travelling west, try to go to bed an hour later; the idea is to “prime” your sleeping routine with your destination in mind.

Get enough sleep before you travel. Flying when you’re tired will make the jet lag feel worse so don’t start off your travel already sleep deprived.

Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is one of the main reasons behind our jet lag discomfort.

Bring your own healthy snacks for the flight. For example, bring almonds, walnuts, veggies with hummus, etc. with you, so that you can avoid the temptation of eating unhealthy options offered in-flight.

Engage in a silent meditation. This practice will provide physical and psychological rest to your body and mind.

During the flight

Drink plenty of water.

Rest during the flight. Take frequent short naps.

Limit your caffeine consumption – avoid drinking too many caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, tea and sodas, and avoid drinking them within a few hours of planned naps/sleep.

Avoid alcohol. It will worsen your jet lag symptoms.

Eat light meals. Avoid the salty pretzels, chips, chocolate, cookies usually served in-flight.

Avoid sugar altogether. If your blood sugar levels rise, it will give you a boost of energy when you really should be napping.

Keep active. When flying long distances, take regular walks around the cabin and stretch your arms and legs while you’re sitting down; this will also help reduce your risk of developing a potentially serious condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Change your watch to match the time of your new destination. This will help you adjust to your new time zone more quickly.

After your land

Eat and sleep at the correct times for your new time zone. Don’t go to sleep at the time you usually eat and sleep at home.

Drink plenty of water.

Get a full body massage. It will stimulate circulation and release physical and mental tension.

Do some yoga. This practice will help you bring your internal rhythms back into place.

Meditate.

Avoid napping as soon as you arrive. Staying active until the correct time to sleep at your destination will help your body adjust quicker.

Spend time outdoors. Natural daylight will help your body adjust to a new routine following most flights.

A little preparation for your transmeridian flights goes a long way. Follow these guidelines and I’m sure that your experience of traveling will be a much more pleasant one.

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Drunk at Work

Have you ever showed up drunk at work? According to research, you might have without even knowing it.

It wouldn’t be hard for me to believe if you were to tell me that their have been nights in which things were so busy at work that you were only able to get 6 hours of sleep (or less). Your lack of sleep, however, might have been praised by your management and lauded by your teammates for your exemplary commitment to the job, client and/or project.

In my line of work, I have come across many companies in which burning the midnight oil is regarded as a badge of honour. Cultures that praise their employees for sacrificing their sleep and overall wellbeing for the good of the company, which creates a type of worker that comes forward with statements like “You can count on me, no matter what!”

Several extensive scientific studies, like the one published in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine journal, have stated that even moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments equivalent to those of alcohol intoxication.

A few nights of getting only 6 hours of sleep and your cognitive impairment will be equivalent to you having a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .05% (legally drunk in may countries). Additional nights were you are only getting 6 hours (or less) of sleep, will raise that equivalent to a BAC of .1% – legally drunk in almost every country around the world.

Other studies like the one published in the National Library of Medicine, showed that if you only get six hours of sleep per night for two weeks in a row, your performance drop-off will equate to someone who has gone 24 hours without sleep and will manifest the following side-effects:

– Difficulty concentrating
– Falling asleep at inappropriate times throughout the day
– Losing your temper (at work and at home)
– Failing to recall information
– Behaving inappropriately (at work and at home)

So coming to work after having slept less than 7 hours (even though you might think that you can still cope with your work day), is basically like showing up to work drunk without the smell of alcohol on your breath.

Sacrificing your sleep doesn’t look that sexy now, doesn’t it?

Recommendations

A company culture is not some external entity that governs and dictates what you should value and how you should behave. A company culture is the sum of individual’s beliefs and behaviours, so if you would like to bring a healthy influence to your organisation and help it raise its game, follow the these recommendations:

1) Have the courage to say NO. If a client, manager or colleague has grown accustomed to assigning you work on a regular basis that contributes to your sleep depravation (frequent last minute requests, exaggerated demands, etc.), explain to him/her the quality that you could bring to your work together if you take proper care of your body & mind.

2) Be a role model. Once you decide to adopt healthy practices, let everyone around you know what you are doing, how your choices are making you feel, and the impact your new habits are having in your performance at work and the quality of you personal life.

3) Challenge unhealthy practices. If you notice that your colleagues are engaging in unhealthy habits for the sake of their work, don’t judge them. Simply help them to raise their awareness about the impact of their choices with questions like : How are these behaviours making you feel? How are your choices impacting the quality of your work? How long do you think will you be able to sustain this way of working? How proud are the people you care for of your present lifestyle and work style choices?

Remember what Gandhi once said “Be the change you wish to see in the world”

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Workplace Wellbeing : Getting Results

In meetings that I’ve held with great leaders across a number of different industries, something has become very clear to me. Investing in the wellbeing of their employees is a priority for them. They understand that performance and results can be significantly optimised if their employees are physically, mentally and emotionally fit.

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Why you make the decisions the way you do

Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, the influence of emotions in our decision making process is far greater than most people would care to admit. Regardless of how analytical we think we may be, the latest neuroscience research is confirming how our emotions are designed to appraise, summarise and inform most of our actions. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to develop and sustain a strong and resilient emotional foundation that will allow us to make great decisions in our personal or professional lives.

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Breaking Bad : The Power of Detaching from Work

Whilst hard at work, sometimes we forget that we are human beings. We try to squeeze hours out of the day to meet deadlines and obligations, completely ignoring certain principles of human biology that relate to performance. After all, we are biological beings, so there are certain principles that we need to observe if maximising our performance is something we aspire to.

In order to achieve high levels of performance consistently, we must not ignore a basic principle that will help us sustain our capacity to perform even in the midst of pressure: oscillation – the rhythmic movement between energy expenditure (stress) and renewal (recovery).

Experts in the field of biology recommend that our mind-body system need recovery every 90 to 120 minutes. So for instance, if you start working at 8am and don’t detach from your work until lunchtime, by 10am that morning, most likely your physical, mental and emotional capacity will start to diminish, affecting the output and quality of your work. It’s a fact of science.

I’m still shocked when I see executives scheduling working-lunches let alone the appalling working-breaks – how is that for an oxymoron! The key to high performance is breaking linearity – the failure to oscillate between energy expenditure and recovery. Rituals that prompt recovery at key points during the day will increase your levels of energy, concentration and motivation – guaranteed.

Recommendation

Remember that to maximise your level of performance, you must break linearity and promote oscillation. Consider these suggestions:

– Get away from your desk or go for a walk every 90 minutes. Don’t succumb to the temptation of taking your phone or tablet with you. Completely detach from your work and screen time for the space of 5 to 10 minutes – this will allow your mind-body system to recharge.

– Schedule your breaks as you would an important meeting. By scheduling your breaks, you are more likely to take them.

– Find a break partner. Socialising is a sure-fire way to refresh your brain, so enlist a work friend to have some tea, have a chat, or take a short walk with you.

– Meditate or do some chair yoga. Search the web for “chair yoga” and you will find very useful videos on how to relax from head to toe without getting out of your chair.

– Make the most of your lunch break. By all means, do not eat at your desk.

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How to Change your Perception to Minimise your Stress : Tip 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, there are 4 factors that can trigger the stress response in us, and in this article, we will briefly discuss the first and most common trigger : our perception (thoughts).

How we perceive situations, events or circumstances, will play a massive role in whether we will create stress for ourselves at any given point in time.  For example, the type of response to an email we have just received from a coworker heavily criticising our work in a project, will come down to how our neural network is configured in our brain.

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 César Gamio - Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist - CesarGamio.com
 César Gamio - Executive Life Coach - EMCC-EIA - CesarGamio.com
 César Gamio - Chopra Center Certified Instructor - CesarGamio.com
César Gamio - Certified Corporate Wellness Specialist - CesarGamio.com César Gamio - Executive Life Coach - EMCC-EIA - CesarGamio.com
César Gamio - Chopra Center Certified Instructor - CesarGamio.com